School meals in West & Central Africa

Local. Nutritious. A lifeline in and after emergencies.

WFP/Adel Sarkozi

Schools resume in September and October across West and Central Africa. In a region plagued by chronic hunger and malnutrition, and increasingly affected by conflict, the World Food Programme’s school meals have been a lifeline for children, as they are often the only regular and nutritious meals they receive.

School meals encourage primary school children, especially girls, to enroll, attend and remain in school. During the 2015–2016 school year, WFP provided daily nutritious meals to over 2.5 million children across 18 countries in West and Central Africa; of these, 1.2 million were girls.


WFP/Adel Sarkozi

Girls at school in Mauritania where chronic food insecurity means that many people struggle to have enough food. Photo: WFP/Adel Sarkozi

WFP/Adel Sarkozi

School meals in Chad are a lifeline for children; in some regions up to 80% of the population faces hunger. Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

WFP/Adel Sarkozi

A girl proudly showing her writing board in Chad. Photo: WFP/Nathalie Magnien

WFP/Adel Sarkozi

Nadia at school in Bangui, C.A.R. where WFP aims to provide school meals for 215,000 children this year. Photo: WFP/Sayaka Sato

In a fifth-grade math class in Bangui, the capital of central African Republic, Nadia and her classmates are learning how to say what time it is — adding together the hours and minutes on the clock. Some of them are putting the lesson into practice already.

“I come to school because it is fun to learn, and also because of the meals we get every day! It‘s only 11:00 am but I‘m already counting down until lunch because the food is so tasty!“ says Nadia.


During or after conflict in the Central African Republic, Mali and Niger, or in the aftermath of a major health crisis such as the Ebola outbreak, school meals have played an important role in providing children in need with nutritious meals; encouraging families to send their children to school; and, more broadly, helping children regain their childhood.

In Niger and Chad, WFP has been providing school meals to more than 23,000 children displaced by the Boko Haram violence. In Mali, in the 2015–2016 school year, WFP’s school meals helped schools in the north of the country reopen, after being closed since 2012 due to the crisis, by encouraging families to send their children back to school.

WFP/Nathalie Magnien

Children displaced by the Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad region of Chad line up for their school meals.

WFP/Sayaka Sato

Children at school in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) where one in two people suffers from hunger.

WFP/Agron Dragaj

Malian refugee boy in Mauritania enjoying his porridge at the school he is attending in Mbera camp.

WFP/Ricci Shryock

One of the first school meals after Ebola declared over in Liberia in 2015.


Across the region, WFP partners with small-scale farmers to buy locally grown, fresh food, thus not only helping students, but boosting agricultural incomes and local economies at the same time.

WFP and its partners support local farmers to produce food such as yams, cassava, potatoes and palm oil, and which is then purchased and used for school meals. The programme will bring nutritional benefits for students, increased income generation opportunities for farmers, and sustainable development for local communities.

WFP/Alexandra Hilliard

After Ebola, the number of school meals doubled in Guinea. Here, children enjoy rice with local vegetables.

WFP/Sayaka Sato

In C.A.R., mothers do more than hold bake sales for their school children. They roll up their sleeves and prepare the meals.

WFP/John Monibah.

Yams, cassava, potatoes now on the school meals menu in Liberia.

WFP/John Monibah

Home-Grown School Feeding Programme is to gradually replace the current school meals programme in Liberia.

WFP/John Monibah

Children enjoy rice a meal of rice and corn in Liberia’s Nimba county.

WFP/Adel Sarkozi

Students help maintain the school’s garden — growing herbs and vegetables — in Mauritania.

WFP/John Monibah.

A little girl with her meal made out of local yam and cassava in Liberia’s Nimba country.


In May 2015, the World Food Programme introduced fresh yogurt prepared by a group of 30 women as part of the school meals programme in Burkina Faso. It is a win-win situation for all. The initiative benefits thousands of schoolchildren, the women’s group, the breeders, and creates small jobs for milk collectors.

“We had many difficulties at first. Even our husbands did not believe in our adventure. But now, KNB allows us to be autonomous, to meet our needs and those of our families. We now have more value in the eyes of our families and societies — more respect.” (Hadiatou Ba Koïta, a 36-year-old mother of five and the group’s president)

WFP/Celestine Ouedraogo

Members of the KNB Women’s Group in Burkina Faso.

WFP/Celestine Ouedraogo

Children having yogurt for breakfast in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region.


While in some countries the government and other agencies lead or complement WFP’s programme, in most of this region WFP is the sole or main provider of school meals, targeting areas where hunger and malnutrition levels are highest. Year after year, funding constraints have been forcing WFP to shrink its areas of coverage.

Dwindling resources, shifting donor priorities and changed financing mechanisms in some countries — all have conspired to create a funding gap and jeopardize programmes. More than 1.3 million children are at risk of missing out on school meals this year.

Unless vital funding comes through in the next month, more than half a million children across Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania and Niger could start the school year without the meals they have come to rely upon. By the end of 2016, assistance will run out for a further 700,000 children in 11 other countries.

Key donors to WFP’s school meals programme in West and Central Africa for the 2015–2016 school year are Canada, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

WFP/Agron Dragaj

Children in Mauritania, one of the countries where WFP’s school meals programme is under threat.




Insight by The World Food Programme

Recommended from Medium

The open violence of the Balkan labour reforms

What it will take to end Gender Based Violence in Kenya

Sultan Haitham bin Tarik’s Address To The Omani People Foreshadows Changes To Come

Israeli firm’s spyware used on Jordan activists, report says — LM

All of People of USA must become Muslims.

The First Step to Fighting Antisemitism: Why the IHRA Definition Matters

I Haven’t Seen Injuries This Severe in My 38-Year Career as a Surgeon

The pen is mightier than the strongman

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
WFP West Africa

WFP West Africa

Providing lifesaving assistance and building life-changing resilience in 19 countries of west and central Africa.

More from Medium

Black mirror for Europe


The hidden life of our used stuff

An old school bus at Old Car City USA.

Reflecting on the Shifting Systems Initiative with Ford Foundation’s Kathy Reich